Fraught : A photographic interlude

Fraught worlds subside

SARC and the hearing experience

Few places free your mind like SARC.  Open today for a lunchtime performance by Frances-Marie Uitti for a blistering bewildering controlled journey in Cello polyphonics we were treated to this composers playing of a new works, one with accompaniment of Franziska Schroeder of SARC came a wonderful excursion through the places they have explored in experimental music.  On Cello the first piece was a setting of a work by Jonathan Harvey (1982) Curve with Plateau.  It at first sounded delivered straight from the Cello without monitors.  Then it became clear it opened up in binary speakers.  Taking in high straining notes symbolic of a curve it dropped and interweaves as a duet of sound like it was lineage of controlled nature in balance and fraught with counterpoint.  It challenges and transports then coheres as a watery path of sound in this auditorium a special rarely found and simply absorbed warm and breathy work.

Next came what is a piece by FM Uitti, an excerpt from Utopia (2015).  Built on classical lines it is a twisting resurgence of fine percussive beats and primitive rhythms played as Cello in counter sometimes double bowed mellow bass like Cello as another contest of vibes.  This time it’s considered, notes inform, as East : West with no complacency or stopping.  Machine sounds from F M U’s library of sound embrace the stifling proximity of intransigence with overtures to power held and thrust as dictates or trampled on as put down.  It too became a piece of remarkable playing in this auditorium.  I compared it to Drum and Bass with effects at a level taking in primitive basic sounds and echo was only in use as a spatial quality transporting listeners to a desolate and machine dominant sphere.  Samples prove to be a good tool with them in use not as stand alone found audio but as here used in overlayers and undershaping sounds.  The tomes of City etc. as literal devices have little use as these sounds cmbinecas unique and unheard sounds oblivious to our connection with those words.  The simple thing it projects is to a Utopia which we cannot see but might hear.

The final piece was the collaborative piece was reminiscent of when I heard Jan Garberek and The Hilliard Ensemble perform in close proximity.  JB was about a meter away when he began the concert and this time no tenor, counter tenor, or contralto but a fusion of ‘bird’ talk’ between two instruments.  The Cello and Saxaphone.

If more info is wanted follow and the SARC site where the binary headphone experience is to be mixed and put up for a representation of the above through Sonic Performance spaces 34 speakers.  That will be entirely different form the performance but a huge almost surreal transmission of it. events will find you in the place.

Next Art from corners

Line and Litho 1

Improper Knot 2

RUA Time-Out (Children’s ante-room is a relief)

Metal object 1

RUA Fun Item 1

Binary World (after RUA work)

RUA 2 Fun is discernable?

Metal object 2

Portrait (after BP neck stretching exercise)

Metal alchemy 1


Food corners


Interior folds out


John Graham

12 October 2017



  This is not a widget but

donations to keep me going are welcome and below is a method to use.


Raw : A Film Review


Director Julia Ducournau Writer Julia Ducournau Stars Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux.
Jean-Louis Sbille as the professor  Rating 18. Duration 1h 39m Genres Drama, Horror.

Probing the flesh

Raw is War in tooth and claw.  Red is cinemas greatest asset in showing in glorious technicolor our raw emotions that inhabit our conscious.  From the premise that within us is a primordial guilt and we seek revenge for the ills of our ancient past back to the dawn of existence we have been fascinated with the bloodlust of others and sometimes ourselves.  The driven kind features heavily and their appetite is satiated in a campus of post-revolutionary Europe.  In a University campus that of L’Universite de Liege, filmed over one summer, writer, Director, Julia Ducournau, in her debut feature film sees humans in a structure of hierarchy.  Garance Marillier playing Justine is dropped of by her affluent parents in a sprawling University campus.  They are past students of the same place and are perhaps aware of what lies ahead in more senses than we are initially lead to believe.   I couldn’t help thinking if they were in part authors or this rite of passage, being from the output from ’68, for their virginal daughter.  In a horrific incestuousness leading all back to the beginning.  Already at the University is sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) a year ahead.

Journey to self

At the opening frames which we go back to later there is a similar opening to many films.  A open large perspective of a rural connection of a tree lined road seen anywhere in Europe.  There occurs an unexplained event. Cut to the car wth the dog lapping the cheeks of the open eyed Justine whose move from childhood to adulthood is officially stamped.  No longer at home she is on an adventure called life.  This is an enclosed tale of rule making and conformity layered with the very present hormonal discharges of Justines sexuality.  Into this is added the self image and her beliefs which are more or less intact.  As a vegetarian she is setting herself out as having a love of animals which is taken to the point of her enrollment and the family belonging to an ethic of helping all creatures on this earth.

In this environment it is easy to see the disgust of meat eating and it is but not questioned here, a method of exploring whether we are indeed carnivores or as the ancient history will tell us after the ‘original’ sin we became sinful in killing and eating animals.  The proteins of other sources being accommodated only by locational advantage.  The China Study is a book which shows us how to remove meat as a protein source and also shows us how location, China can support a food structure in balance while others hunt and fish plainly because they have an abundance of wild animals, rivers, forests in which flight is not sufficient to save birds, nor speed a reason to escape an arrow.  The Masai will eat from nomadic cattle by slicing off a piece of hind while they walk, covering the wound with mud and eating it raw.  Their choice is confined to an existence without much plant growth.  So how is it God our creator has it in mind meat is a legitimate source of our diet.

Outside life

Justine is confronted by the meat eating fraternity without the family protection.  As a set up we see the family enroute at a roadside cafeteria and out of her ‘veggie’ choice – her parents have moved onto meat eating – probably by obliging the instincts to masticate on flesh cooked into unchained protein as a demonstration of the common predication for eating meat.  In the school of Veterinary Studies there is a ritual and it is a basic condensing of human rules and conformity writ large.  In it the Upper year students in the Dead of Night ambush the entire intake and involve them in a series of initiation subjections which are both a release and an imprisonment.  Mindsare pliable and Alex, Justines sister is already into the camp of the meat eater.  This is despite her own beliefs and she suppresses what Justine still holds as a basic right to decide what she puts inside her body.  

The initiation I won’t describe as too many writers on this film have drawn out all the little details which make it a full on exploration of human instincts.  First time Director at 33 when she made it (at some critics take a youthful age apparently though it is not an age thing, directing chops!) is giving this story an arch violently expressive with some tremendous scenes setting out with accomplished subtlety at times – in the Student clinic for instance there is a great piece of observational writing, then there is the location itself with its optimistic, bunker like, confrontational raw materials of architecture, stubborn forms plain and as the film afore mentioned – ‘What you see is what you get’.  Julia Ducournau has this locked down into Form follows function in excruciating bodily functional detail.  In Train to Busan which is a brilliant zombie movie from a South Korea from last year I took it on to seek more references to the human condition which explored along very similar lines what were its driving forces.  I found it to be the backward launch of the human, back through their mothers, birth a journey to ancient loss.  That read is found by putting into the top right –  search box – Train to Busan.

Sexual appetite

There are scenes which see Justines sexuality spawn a million seeds.  The male leads in the film are similarly stuck by the new circumstances they find themselves in and their preconceptions are not so much challenged as replaced by alternatives.  Love stories, strange as it may seem develop.  Within this – it is not – mash up – there are several failed relationships and new ones. All concerned with orgasm lust which draws into the equation love and ritualized belongin, hurt and betrayal.  This is another strand not obvious at first but it’s very much there.  From what I’ve so far implied and set out strands of story direction I’ve gotten onboard with the liking community for this film.  At times it will irritate the chops off you, make you cringe at the banality of some use of others tried and rested cinema scoping – the entry frames are so often followed it is tedious to see them range into view again.  I won’t name them but I do have favorites of this intro and they are totally memorable putting this so far below in the lower deck it’s below the plimsol line. Annoying.  There are other beautiful scenes held flowingly with one or two faults, camera hungry playacting, like in the first dance/techno sequence.  The music is by Williams, (son of John?) and it once becomes too much as it is used to ratchet up a particular moment.  It could have blurred out sound or disfunctional sound but it chose the conformity.

Progression towards …. 

The story develops over one year at University and takes on a form utilizing the group without elder supervision other than a few Professorial types who are strangely not equipped or bothered to set anything other than experiments and pick up on grammatical error while also giving Justine further concerns about her outstanding alacrity, skills, understanding of veterinary techniques.  Unlike her  fellow rookies who begin to detest her or at least some of them.  Alex and Justine become strongly connected and share similar demons.  They get into extreme bother and trouble, inviting the entire college to come down on them in their interactions with them.  It keeps ramping up in its violence and portray of the communal internalization while setting out no answers or analysis of the behavior.  Critics so far have placed it in boxes to suit their view and none inclauding myself were able to fix it in a frame of mutual understanding.

 Doctors daughter Julia Ducournau!

Conclusion ****4

Julia Ducournau has composed an odyssey through a young woman’s journey from childhood to adult and survival.  She has used a very able crew and set of young actors who fail nowhere in convincing us of the, beyond recognition, behaviors they portray while putting more than many young actors should in order to be faithful to the task.  The experience must itself been ground breaking on the minds of these young people and Julia Ducournau has probably learnt through it of the many potential pitfalls and erroneous steps, some life changing that enter people’s lives.  The ground breaking element nearly stretches it out to become a genre free film though it is not long enough or dig into the medical, psychological straits of the human pathway.  It is gloriously rich in detail, too much in many people’s minds and plays the willfulness and inevitable harm inflicted mentally on the sisters as in faith.  Julia Ducournau holds the characters hands throughout without being exploitative.  It crosses many lines but being Cinema it’s not a dilemma for anyone. Of course there is revulsion and sickening components but that’s Cinema story telling unleashed with a courageously minded group.

John Graham

27 April 2017




On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 28 April 2017 and on general release.

Belfast Film Festival : Short Documentary Films 2017

Documentary Short films 10 only. In order of screening at Queens Film Theatre 2 April 2017

The Festival organisers this year decided to separate the Documentary Short films from the general submissions to create a different dynamic. One was the resulting drama, theatrical, visionary output of Shorts as entertainment and of a closer connection to Mainstream Cinema and independent’s of the previous days showing. Foremost among new filmmakers is the notion that they have a new story to tell and hence avoid finding replicant’s of films we are familiar with. The Short delivers a condensed story form or idea and scrutinises it with a particular scenes of occasion. A long form film does this also at times but can construct in the pyramid many routes to the same end. Documentary Shorts are a difficult medium also as there have been numerous exceptionally good ones over recent years. One in a style specific to itself, Amy, several other musical ones, the Iggy Pop one, Gimmie Danger and then there are the ones Notes on Blindness and Life, Animated. These were outside the realm of TV documentaries also confined to a set one sitting viewing. The tendency with Art, History and Science Documentaries is to chapter them. The recent brilliant Andrew Graham Dixon series – a trilogy on the Gothic willing my view for it to go down as a masterpiece of a study on the current sociological vicissitudes, and angst born out of the modern era where money and patronage gave leave for writers to produce ‘analysis’ on past times and create future visions. Post Dante and post figurative art. All these lead into the medium of Film. Exemplified by Frankenstein and Dracula with Hitchcock exploring along with the Gothic of Psycho the psychology of the species.  

Here goes.

The following are not exactly tending towards any sense of the gothic but they are oddly enough in many instances paying homage and advancing Gothic themes or ways of thinking.

I call to the Living and Mourn the Dead 

Very often a tragedy during the ‘Troubles’ – that misconstrued inadequate word for our recent history, is explored and it shoulders a responsibility to maintain in its purpose some truth seeking. This film is of a family torn by internal loss of a brother who fled Northern Ireland for fear of being shot. 

Told by his brother the narrative brings in Bombay Street, Ballymurphy as props and timelines. Neither event directly involving the family. Certainly being in the midst of it it implies may have provoked brother Kevin into IRA activism. Kevin became an on the run. We never hear what became of him nor do we get any insight as to the rights and wrongs of Irishman fighting Irishman. Both residing in Britain so Brit fighting Brit? It was a loss of identity or clamor for identity which drove the conflict on top of Civil Rights, supported by both sections against Unionist hegemony. In this film that intangibility is evident though very thinly explored. People do not as individuals represent the ‘Nation’ but people around them convince them they do and design a politic to suit the cause without sight of the consequences. Like the United Irishmen of 1798 the IRA who had none of the nationalist support of the unique United Irishmen had and Ireland in mind but not a United one. This is a film about everything except the troubles but is enclosed in telling a story about a particular family, a sense of remorse and loss, and a head shaking excessive in why? without any particular vision nor with any disclosure about what happened to Kevin. It was not like the Boston tapes which sought/seek to reveal what is unheard. This was a simplistic version of reality though in itself explains many families still are trying to work out what went on and how they were caught up in it others seeking justice and who will never stop through generations quite rightly seeking the truth on those dark dark days.

Forever roars the Atlantic

This is a stupendous alternative view of the North Antrim Coast as seen through adventurous divers, climbers with a good sense of a dramatic frame and larger appreciation of the wilds of nature that form our coastline. Like birds they fly into the air but as humans drop like stones into the breaking waves and surf crashing into the rocks. The depiction through the new equipment of go-pro lightweight cameras which have their own memory card and possibly new gimble aided cameras provide a brilliant active film of high quality and definition. To give gravitas to the adventurous by acknowledging what this awesome coastline is about – which after all is capped by the explosion of the North Atlantic Plate and The European Plate tectonically providing us with this habitat we know as Ireland – at the Giants Causeway – is extolled by the filmmakers and delivered – partially – by a 200 year old MacGonagle? poem itself a homage to this rugged active terrain. Except it to is not up to the task. Forever roars the Atlantic. That is not even close as this film will testify. The Atlantic is our definition of the Ocean formed after this Coastline took shape in the manner crudely described above. The Forever part is also untrue. These adventurers come to a place where for thousands of years these waves have repeatedly on the aegis of the moon cyclically been crashing in more or less the same way over a vast time. Seasons and moon cycles their driver. So it is to this beauty and awesome place we enter in a different way than we would otherwise see it through these filmmakers and it is a testimony to the gift it is to be witness of it or a part of its immense creation. The film reaches another level of understanding and it’s brevity is one possible reason it did not hold the interest entirely. It would have been interesting to see a greater variety of locations and people if holding the impression it was isolated and became a extreme sports film more than a locality, people driven film.

The Wee Shop

In Belfast the corner shop is a disappearing social staple. The Shop around the corner and later You’ve got mail by Nora Ephron are story films of the urban shop while in Belfast the Irving St John who belonged to a deaf family in Euston Street wrote the very funny play Boyd’s Shop which created a very portrait of the community focal point these places were on basically every road and inner city tributary. They even existed in the backstreets and their lights were on until near nine o’clock to provide for the essentials such as milk bread and sugar and non essentials such as cigarettes, lemonade and ice cream, the weekly pools coupon and a florid diet of gossip. The faltering entity is now a shadow of its former self as this short film makes a collection of a small number of stoical shopkeepers lament themselves about the struggle to remain true to the community corner shop provision they sustain on modest returns. Aside from the butchers and Chip shops and street cafes and fast food outlets they are seldom able to compete and this film is a tale which brings mostly dark humour out with the resolute frank telling of past times. Patsy on the New Lodge Road has plenty in common with her fellow shopkeepers Bill and Norman of Sandy Row and the Shankill respectively. The sorry demise of communities driven to the wall by successive governments undermining through lack of investment in all sectors of community life, the housing, schools, infrastructure, transport and a determination to structure destabilisation through housing allocation and lack of provision for families within communities is seen in these very shops which act as a last connection with the troubled communities they serve and served. By giving as one Shopkeeper explained Consuelo the bigger stores are allowed free access to a market through scale and mainly car accessible shopping. Monster supermarkets out of scale with communities and frequented by out of town bound custom heading to the dormitory habitations which provide identikit soulless housing on former farmland and undeveloped hinterlands of small villages. The film is a marker as were photographs of the same shops and former shopkeepers which provide another outlook and insight to the life of a passing community key. 

Seán Hillen Merging views 

This new short documentary portrait observes artist Seán Hillen as he creates a beautiful new photomontage. He shares thoughts about his work and recent personal discovery. The choice of making a work in the small studio of Seán Hillen is a tool adding emphasis to the incredibly interesting subject which is part of film making achievement; the detail the intensely focal frame.

The intensely imaginative world of Newry native, Séan Hillen in his present home of many years in Dublin is entered as if stepping into the imagination itself. From the immediacy of an introduction to the dark outside and the loved fat bastard of a cat getting a food treat offered with profanity, a source of warm engagement and audience laughter enters the film theatre as The Wee Shop did with its non stop mix of pathos and humour striking a chord here in Belfast. It is a rare thing indeed to see an artist in a studio and while Warhol identified a niche to have photographers, artists, authors committed to coming to the factory and making their written and visual record of it itself became product. Like the late Basil Blackshaw who eschewed the rigmarole of publicity and never courted it Séan Hillen is similarly not keen on intrusiveness. When filmmakers of the aptitude and moxie of Paddy and put it to you they want to make a piece about your work it’s a different matter altogether. The work too becomes an artwork. I was reminded of the groundbreaking film following Francis Bacon back from The Colony Rooms to his house and his immediately getting prepared to paint in the wee small hours of the night. Bacon took time to ignore the witness and get on with the work in his mind whereas there is a participation advanced here in this film, to welcome in the viewer to the processes which attest to their inherent honesty. 

To carry out an explanation of how he works Séan gathers together an assembly of thoughts surrounding a new piece of work. In common with the photomontage works he has been making for nearly thirty years it is a leap into the unexpected each time it would seem and is as I perceived it a conduit of his mind extrapolating for us our own heralded metamorphic conjunctions on possible truths of previously upheld views. His explanation and it’s not given as a foundation but possible source of our connection with his work, is our brains priority in placing – seeing as believing – first ahead of further analytical deconstruction. The eye tells the mind to believe what it sees. Given the mind is relying on a chemical reaction which is fed though light onto chemicals transmitters and is a part of the brain itself we are in teleportation land. In the depths of the oceans we know of creatures that have no eyes. We are aware of the senses prioritising light and colour followed by sound smell taste and touch so reality exists to be broken down intuitively when we encounter only the two dimensional figurative statement of a photograph. Ireland has a complex narrative as does ever inhabitant of it.  

Those in the past have questionable histories so why not confront alternative functions for those times and perceptions because memories lie and people do. Mythology is an art form in Ireland from the pipers lament handed down through millennia to our Newgrange polemic ancestory. We have an Eros of harmony in our lives which is equated with that ancient Greek goddess of discord and the sister of Ares. To the turbulence of the universal rules and reliances we bring construct more often than not based on simple untruths be it, democracy, loving, civilisation and fellow treatment of all living things. To this is the melee we have to call discord, identified with the Roman goddess Discordia. In Séan Hillen’s work – most notably Irelantis this discordance is highly prevalent. The discordance which Séan Hillen relates to and with in the film is his relatively recent knowledge of his having the Asperger’s condition which has performed a cathartic revalation for him to the extent previously unexplained attributes were held at arms length rather than their current state of becoming part of the reasoned dialogue.  

To an artist this must be a great benefit as well as a perpetual commitment to the Aldous Huxley doors of enlightenment. Huxley was taught by his father of the possibilities the mind could extend to. The Prelude And Præterita of Aldous therefore were built in his DNA along with the affinities the mind constructs. Seeing here is the artwork progressing along those very lines. Such was the source of the Huxley concepts of cosmic and social order to effect a transformation in Western thinking parallel must be held appropriate in advancing towards recognition of viewpoints we are yet unable to understand but have a belief they are of such magnitude as to affect our present existence in unknown ways, we are basically staking our whole existence past present and future on that construct being manifest. Whether it is true – and these art works as well as many other artists works – tend to that possibility – that we are not yet able to see it – is what allows us the freedom to make such conjectures. Ireland, Eire has Greek connections to the word Peace the opposite of discord ironically. 

There was a palpable stunned silence as the revelatory images became clear and that we were witness to a photomontage which proposed the absurd to not only to be a possibility but had certain other occurrences happened, they could not be dismissed as mere juxtapositions of intangible fluid thought and were reminders how we perceive things alive and active. Advertisements and the land of fictional representation, the apparel label logos identity symbols and members of the semiotics of visual language. While many are on the parameters of fictional forces there are others which are disablingly, perplexing and of deep embedded truth telling however ‘inconceivable’ they might appear. Our consciousness is at a place we’re we are incapable of dismissing them, as perceived certitudes divide us and make us what we are. In preparation for God it seems our goal is to seek out beauty in harmony with the universe. This simple aim is difficult for the human as existence is made all the more confounding by the Bible quotation of God being sorry for making us this way… ‘failing’ you becoming ‘sorry’ in the KJB. 

The Irish Film Festa10 asked of Paddy Cahill 3 questions 

Why did you choose to make a film about Seán Hillen?

I’ve been a long time admirer of Seán Hillen’s work but it was last year, as I visited him at his home to buy one of his prints as a present, that I knew I wanted to make the film. I wrote to Seán right after asking if I could make a short documentary about him and his work. Seán has an amazing backstory, which should be told in another documentary, but I was really fascinated by his home/studio where he creates his amazing work.

The film is set in a small room:

How did you work in terms of frame composition and editing?

When we filmed it was just myself and Basil Al Rawi, our director of photography, in the house with Seán. It was very important to me that we would be a tiny crew, although not much more would have fit in the room anyway! One rule I tried to keep was that Seán would only talk or answer questions while he was making work. That way it would be less like a traditional documentary interview. I thought that watching Seán work while he spoke would be more interesting to the viewer. This also gave Basil the freedom to get right up to Seán’s shoulder and compose some really beautiful cinematography.

And how long did the shooting take?

Along with producer Tal Green we were planning the filming for quite a while but the actual filming was over the course of one night only. I wanted the audience to have the same feeling we had when we filmed as if they just dropped in one night, to this unusual house on a normal looking terrace street in Dublin and got to watch Seán create one of his works.

Oor Wally

There is a pride about Elena Taylor as this film shows about her beloved Stenhousemuir Football Club. In the introduction she tells the unseen cameraman and us, ‘This is the Toilet’, then shuffles along fully kitted up as Stenies long in post, mascot Oor Wally. Or Wally if you prefer. Being a Wally is an unfortunate choice but like the Broons, and Oor Willie they kit the name out with further embellishment so as not to frighten or lull the away supporters Wally is a push over. Decorum is very much Elenas take on it. She is a woman on a mission and gives her all to the role. She takes the cameraperson up the bread aisle of her day job in – well it looked like Asda – and into the toilets. On the wall are framed awards, the latest has yet to be mounted. The Frozen foods aisle brings us and the camera person back to earth as Elena spreads her cheerful banter about her workmates like jam on a scone. When you see Elena sans outfit she is a normal middle aged lovely heart warming person with a radiance she likes to hide, well most of the time, under her alter ego Wally. Once the bloomers are sorted the undergarments correctly in their place on goes the outer shield of the Stenie shirt and leggings. Then Wally the presence, the overlarge head. Then all sorts can be expected. When she walks to the ground past folk going about their business she hardly causes a stir – other than a cherry hello – but on the contrary would be missed if unsighted. As a mascot she takes on dangerous tasks as a meeter and greeter with contact with away fans a thrill no doubt of any day. Newcomers to the home end are easily spotted and welcomed along with the regulars. Defeat is often considered up to fifteen minutes before a match and then a switch is flicked and defeat is out of the question. Warm up coaching of senior players, (l doubt she would berate a younger player) is a forte. Hitting balls over the bar doesn’t go down well and admonishment comes fast and flavoured. This is a memorable film unlike the season they often have. To survive is one thing but to live the dream is another. This is a delightfully made, sincerely felt, no half measures Film – grit loss victory treated just the same – but overall it is a portrait of a lady who goes out of herself to provide an added dimension to the 90mins + added time and long may her reign and Stevie’s need for support continue.

Roys Story

Along with the film below this is similarly voyeuristic of a delusional. A rural storyteller in this instance who is no Len Graham. Being a short it sets up a middle aged man in a field with a microphone to tell his stories which all involved se some stength in. I came to the conclusion swiftly it was a waste of time. Sorry but this was banality writ large.


There is something exploitative of finding a lonely old farmer whose lived in face and accumulation of history and things is penetrated for its Irish eccentricity. The director has become aware of this man who lives almost hermit like and who makes a life for himself with the fishing and stores he has in isolation. Maybe he is able to sell some of his catch. Sell some potatoes and vegetables. Instead of this existence the portrait is portrayed by the whims of the existential needs of the filmmaker as it could sit nicely in contrast with the nature surrounding the elderly gentleman. The hubris of an elderly man putting his hand on the Bible unprovoked I presume and him telling a story of empty confused allegiance to an almighty or faith element is an infringement which I found it both unedifying and plain damnable by a filmmaker. To see this old man and hear what he supposes a reality from the living while they are the stuff of delusion and an uncritical perturbed complex mind is a travesty. To see it got and it does not surprise me in the least. There is always an appetite for this voyeuristic cannibalism of the form which is painted over with the smoothness of wet bogland, rivers coursing, banks of standing reeds and is as unpoetical and pretentious guff as they come. It is no great insight to rural Ireland and though it records away of life which hopefully is on the decline, there are numerous colonies of self-formed groups living ‘off grid’ but this is quite common in the face of rural agricultural land ownership and immigration. Indeed this man is a returnees so has plenty of experiences which are contrasting. 

Casion : A Chiptune Documentary.

For the second time in this Documentary set we see an art film and a well considered vision of a section of music rarely encountered. The niche is electronics made with Game Boy and Computer Game sound effects. This is like the Seán Hillen work an analogue type of art form. While extensively digital it is conversely instrumental as it is the controls of the devices that enter the latitutude and longitude of the scales and contort, conspire to be a cascade of sound. Set in the environs of public performance in a small club – having been introduced to the subject by the protagonist, player, Jamie Belvedere of his standard nomenclature of Chipmunk this sideline is a very attractive creative outlet which reaches into the aural space of a small rom with familiar vote and sense of alternative sources for of sound. The audience are appreciative and get it, the cinema experience can only touch the edges, and they shuffle, look around and take in this vibe with knowing connection. The intensity of the raw sound and its boundaries are well captured with editing filling in direction of travel. From production to trepidation and worry of ‘will it work’ to it coming together joyfully in a club as an essence of a particular module of electronica. Itself limiting that’s not really a concern but it’s conception as a medium is uniquely choreographed for the reasoning of musics own art form and it’s seemingly unlimited contagion. I enjoyed this dark and driving film with its new delivery of a niche. If it receives attention beyond short film viewers and sound freaks or everyday avante garde travelers then it surprise a few but it’s unlikely to get to reach very far unfortunately.

The Fashion Show
I’ve placed this film short high on my list of preferred films over the Festival. It’s unasssuming erudite, irony and clever depiction of a rural moving on timepiece of a Summer Fete is of a pathos, humble, Ulster form self parodying and reflecting on the time taken out to be at ease and just have fun. The camaraderie is placed on top of a headline (McDonnell – Glenarm) Scots-Irish backdrop. The fact the estate is so large and festivities are a local staple annually preserve the falsehood of landownership while being a countenance to its presence and inadvertently provides a soft landing for its ugly sequestration. The hero of the film is the stoically alert, intelligent, wide thinking Ruth Morrow who contests herself into becoming an alter ego in the form of Game icon. Super Mario and sidekick Luigi. Luigi is taken off field duties leaving an upset mum. This is temporary but Mum is unaware of this and weaning is not easy. You’ve guessed who fits the bill for Luigi’s part?

In The Fashion Show is caught a bright light in the world of Ruth Morrow trainee shepherdess and the Gamer heros were a breathe of fresh air too. The sublimity – (solid to gas to solid again seems appropriate) – of the world of a rural community letting its worries pass into the afternoon sky temporarily was a lovely escape exquisitely creative and insightful. The surreality of the theme developed was a natural phenomenon and a really enjoyable watch, thoroughly well done by a burgeoning talent. The way it took us through the fete was itself an insight without being intrusive. For example we never learn who the ‘entertainers’ they give a massive swerve to are and likewise no morality or judgement is passed. Only the curmudgeonly like myself who set about seeking a higher meaning or sense of displacement onto other things, by attachments, sentimental or otherwise, have occasion to appropriate the message of entertainment in a simple form. It’s just it is done very smartly and with a beginning, middle and an end which is itself an achievement for a short film. The view from the estate is wonderful and it is something all love to be connected to despite it being in someone else’s ownership – perhaps that is why the Sea has its draw.  Any answer Ted Hughes from far?


Established and busy photographer Donal Moloney of Dublin noticed on his frequent movements around the inner City a homeless person who on meeting him turned out to be Martin who disowned the title homeless as his home was underneath Pearce Street Station under arches. Donal was attracted to Martins presence Ashe was a fixture of this locality and was intrigued enough to investigate. We have the resulting film which follows on in perverse logic some photography work with the ‘homeless’ Donal Moloney had been engaged in over many years. Father Peter McVeery who is a Catholic Priest who makes it his life’s mission to help Dublin’s homeless and disadvantaged. The Arrupe Society in Summerhill being the probable source of food for Martin and the biscuits he crushes under his boot for pigeons around Pearce Street. I did not hear his name crop up or did I miss it? This instead avoids spirituality as a hindrance to proper discussion. It takes the dubious philosophy and delusion of happiness into acceptance on the part of the Director for its scenic unmaterialistic value set yet adds tokenistic view of society from the perspective of a person who lives on its fringes while spending time reading in a library in the worst of times. Weather beaten and with pure instincts for survival Martin has become a model inconvenient tag ‘homeless’ person to partner with Donal’s photographic skills so identifying a product and a placement which the pair have contrived as a contribution to art. It removes itself from definition, parody or pathos as a singularly lax story, I can’t think if one is more deluded than the other but as a film of a nomad on the streets of Dublin whose sadness and rejection of the assistance is temporal according to him, one of rejecting help is sanguine, almost sanguinary imploding as a mystery, is of little merit given the conditions of crime, poverty, addictions, child abuse and societal hemorrhaging seen as a white canvas to invent illusion upon. The Belfast Film Festival Documentary Judges Committee came up with this as the joint winner amongst all the above with Raymond. They, to my mind, share the same insensitivity, and intrusive voyeuristic tome required of insensible unconscious filmmaking. There was not a creative moment to be had beyond contrived happenstance.

Gimme Danger : A Film Review


Gimme Danger Cert.15 Duration 1hr 48mins.

Directed by Jim Jarmusch Produced by Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin, Rob Wilson
Written by Jim Jarmusch, Cast Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields
Cinematography Tom Krueger, Edited by Affonso Gonçalves, Adam Kurnitz
Duration. 1hr48mins



The Michigan pharmalogically challenged unhinged performer of Rock and Roll Mr Iggy Pop is the subject of this chronologically travel through the late 60’s, the formative 70’s and the drop off in subsequent decades is given a whole set of musical, storytelling, life narrative so that we can readjust our ideas of him and those times.

How he has survived is something only he can offer solutions to and in most life threatening occasions it’s probably likely he has little direct recall of.  Iggy is a mosaic, a jigsaw of American traditional culture growing out of itself.  The cultural bridge of Michigan is because of its location midway at the place in the USA people would stop on the way between New York and …  The radical center ot became through the fertility of the moving USA drawing newcomers in and their influence created a nature of the cultural America was choosing for itself.


The film format

This really is a chronology and reconstruction of the poorly dismissed Iggy Pop history and fulcrum of pioneering influence in the rock music cannon.  From Sonic Youth through Primal Scream, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones and many rip offs of rip offs, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, you can trace Iggy’s influence as a performer once he got of his butt and became a showman, director of performative music.  The ripped, slim, small body shape of Jim Ostenberg is all over this film as a visual clue to the make up of the man.  We see (feigned privacy greets us first in the narrative roll of the film making) the surroundings.  His own large painting of (himself?) it a primary childlike oil painted strokes of him in a full face startled state, which I think is his default for me anyway, with a carton of Marlboro, creeping in to the screen as drug of choice, fits the 4×3 screen ratio (most of the film is in this ratio as a knock back to the timeshift) as the talking and brilliantly detailed storytelling is like a live musical autopsy those books nor much else could replicate. In documentary terms it has numerous holes.  We get plenty of revisited footagecofvstagecperformances, band member recollections and still frame reminders of who is being spoken of Warhol, Pattie Smith, Elvis, Nico, etc.


Pieces missing

What is missing is footage of backstage or even dressing room insights (more an undressing room in Iggy’s case.) or road footage, the type of thing frequently found with various performers, from Sex Pistools, Amy Winehouse, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and interestingly and definitively offering many specs of the wordsmith, writer performer Bob Dylan of course alonsodeceven The Band narrative.  Another one would be Neil Young and his entry to the Woodstock inner world.  This maybe was a choice made early on and necessary for a survivor.

img_6306 IMG_6305.JPG

Codes of Visual art performance.

As a performer he was stripped and able to burn his energy in acrobatic crawling gyrating and body flipping movements which and a photo fleetingly shows (or was I imagining) the balletic figure of Nico and him capture the Rudolf Nureyev of his psyche.  I’m obviously not suggesting for a moment there is any pretensions of ballet within his performance but the essence of the dynamic the body provides was another instrument to his band which he undoubtedly savoured and exploited within his confines. His bare torso is in homage to the projection of pharoehs and one of Nureyev’s favourite Russian ballets which I saw him perform in a very large tent in a London, and also at the Coliseum was The Rite of Spring, he also performed The Firebird.  I find it a small step to connect these artists.  Another aspect of performance is Iggy’s compulsion to crowd surf. Did he invent it?  Probably!  This is in my view his commune with the audience.  Once he’s in the audience he can act, can respond to what’s on stage like a political act.  It portrays his political statement, his being one with the audience or democracising the engagement of audience and artist.  So close to these influences – the bisexual Isadora Duncan was another American he must have  seen as aspiring to new art and he has invented the interaction many try and replicate.  Theatrical work alongside the tenors of the music penetrating the people.

Chronology as a history lesson

If you think of the Rock family tree books with their graphics and pages of chronology of the Bands and their personnel transformations then you will find this film is on the same lines structurally.  The beginnings of the bands Iggy Pop belonged too are a cocktail of fledgling teenage musicians.  Jim Ostenberg (Iggy) the drummer was a keynote figure in all the first bands and he carried along with him – Jim Williamson is one – and it is something of a similar middle American youth attitude – spawning an original direction.  They all railed against the sentimental and the commercial bombardment of Americana.  The black music first encountered by Iggy was on the demise of College band hopes and his 1969/1970 introduction to back music where the vibe and sound pulsates through the rough cut and sharp cut rhythms of flesh on bone of Soul and a kind of spiritual transcendence music was capable of, allowing a trip without the drugs if it reached the heights.  Miles Davis obviously the pioneer of new black jazz venturing out as small an instrument as a trumpet.  Iggy made a few dollars playing as a club drummer.  He became aware of others such as The Velvet Underground and everyone’s influence, including Any Warhol.  Nico.  After a turbulent few years of finding what made them, their music tick it became obvious the band needs a formative disposition rather than being a cast and crew of hangers on to other bands and influences.  The MC5 were their saviours.


It is noted by Iggy as a composition of the refusing to accept the given.  Extraordinarily he points out the Peace and Love era in which the band he was and is most associated with, The Stooges, were at their lucurative beginning.  Outside Detroit and in middle America such freedoms were seen by some, Iggy included with cynicism which gives us a clue to the historical memory and the form of real America.  Take the film Selma and its portrayal of Black activism then it is also a fact the rejection of the peace – of junked up sexual freedoms, TV, contraception and monetised youth of the backdraft of post war advancement of their parents.  So strategic to Iggy’s development were his parents who got his creative needs – he managed to drum insessently and loud in their long yellow trailer.  His father was an ex-WW2 veteran along with what were to become his band associates.

Back to his roots.

His father had a large Cadillac while his needs were simple and Iggy presents his family situation as loving and one were he was able to connect with his parents which is classic the traditional inclination.  It was not a case of his parents not developing alongside him as people aware of how America was shaping.  It is somehow realistic and cynical given the hogwash of the impact media and cultural politically structural art forms.  Buying into the fashionable Velvet Underground – Andy Warhola projects, the iconography of the neatness of all visual Nuances.  Typefaces, photographic primary art and freedom of speak – it had its Marilyn Manson and crazy criminal immigtrants, Italian, Irish – to be a cultural resilient pathway for all musicians cinema and artist, newsmakers all buddies.  The Jack Kennedy trust in peace was of course a misnomer.  His hands in arming anti-communist Vietnam factions in the early sixties,  presaged the L.B. Johnson war paced intervention.  This is allied to the Johnson tactic of giving democratic access to the Black community in order that they could be drafted into the Vietnam war.  We of course hadcthexlilexof Cassius Clay – a man who fought so no others need to -bridged racial divisions.  Iggy discovered for himself he was no songwriter or storyteller of the Bob Dylan kind.  Jim has a neat way of describing the difference.  He was no great thinker and mused on the preachy types he was amongst.  Thecpeaceniks, the social reformers, the activists and he displays a realism or shortcomings in a) his own ideas of values were not fully formed and besides he pharmisiced his mind to deconstruct humanity. b) the basis of active participants.  Bob Dylan has been a soundtrack along with the Beatles to the generations filling the machinations of industrial technological America.  Iggy stood apart from the industry ‘Stooges’ of corporate America.

Conclusion ###3

I have reservations recommending it as a four/five top rating due to the feel of an Official Biography going down as they say.  It is however a brilliant dialogue insiping film for all music lovers and anyone dipping into past eras especially the New YORK, Chicago shapes of the Seventies and Eighties and Iggy is a product as most of the Stooges were from Ana Arbor in Michigan, the radical state.  It follows the chronology related to many genres but particularly Punk and I have my views on the origins of the whole lot as I’ve tried to explore above. There is a good viewing well worth taking in and very interesting take on the good and evil sides of music.


John Graham

14 November 2016



Born to be blue


Born to be blue

Director and Writer : Robert Budreau; Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Tony Nappo. 15 cert, 98 mins. Camera (color, black and white), Steve Cosens; editor, David Freeman; music, David Braid, Todor Kobakov, Steve London; music supervisor, David Hayman; production designer, Aidan Leroux; costume designer, Anne Dixon; art director, Joel Richardson; sound, Robert Scherer; re-recording mixer, Martin Jensen; visual effects supervisor, Jason Rayment; visual effects, Black Hangar Studios; assistant director, Dan Murphy; casting, Nancy Klopper.

‘Everything happens to me’ happens to be…

The story of Chet Baker is unique and full of unexplained directions.  Directions indeed is the name of one of his nemisaries  , Miles Davis’s album’s.  So cleverly to the chagrin of some jazz fans, not this one, Robert Budreau puts out a note to accord with the style and perception of a trumpeter whose talent absorbs him and his closest followers. He tampers with the facts to make a non-biographical story to hook viewers instead of focusing on the Jazz disease of what one of the good guys says inflicts so many jazzmen and women for that’s sake, Billie Holliday a prime example of lack of treatment and the opposite – being persecuted for her illness. He uses a fictitious love story to explain the people and the times. The fuse of film to narrative is distant and close, drawing Claxton and Weber influences out.  Also there was a short made by Budreau to suggesting possible endings in the 2009 short The Deaths of Chet Baker, with Stephen McHattie.


Kings of Jazz in combat.

Canadian Director Robert Budreau begins his story setting it in 1966 Los Angeles on a film set of the events around 1960 when Chet Baker is just out of jail and trying to restablish himself again with the Jazz set.  He is shown being asked to make the film by a Director in jail which never came to fruition, then we are in a film set and within a spit of the stage at Birdland  when he is victim of a set up which is myth and mire making, when his lover, Jane (Carmen Ejogo) bursts in and he is at another troubled time in the relationship.  Whether the spiking – in full sight, Chet was all for it, took place or not is a fairly crass entry for any film, bearing falsehoods as it might, even as part of a film within a film as it is. The point is presumably the ongoing weakness at Birdland of his addictive tendencies but also to highlight and contrast the rivalries among the jazz kings.

There is black/white thing going on and it’s more feasible as a trope having jealousy entering the jazz kingdom – the Kings being Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.  As random a shot at the probable conflict between musicians this may be, I see it as derisory as a pivot point for a film narrative.  No racial tensions were meant or present, it was the new age of Dylan, electric guitar and it is the subjegation of this jazz – which was a great equalizer among all people, all races, – coming to an end as the main concern of Miles and everyone concerned with Jazz.  It was kind of ‘It’s over guys’ moment, for all concerned. Joe Zawinul progressed and brought along the likes of future derailed tragically Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter was revived, Billy Cobham got a hearing and new forms opened up. Chick Corea, Jazz guitarists aplenty, Miles Davis was back into be-bop and never stopping in the one place finding a new audience, the older ones misguidedly felt betrayed, when, untimely, his  spell was over.  All over in 1991.


Popular culture crossover.

Chet Baker was onto a unique style of West Coast Jazz which heralded post war uplift and better times.  It was also an unparalleled sound which had a lot of followers overseas that opened boxes even Davis and Gillespie couldn’t.  If you think of French style and the supreme use of music to depict, denote good times and be ever fresh then this is how Baker appealed and also in Italy. It was hot to trot in every way and a very sexy potent catalyst for the things the French and Italy were properly fixated on – themselves, love, sex and their relations to each other.  Davis was a less penetrative artist and this soirée music was not his style but improv was as was his incredible musical gift along with his perseverance as a band leader and composer.  He was a matador, Sketches from Spain, Visigoths, to the Gallic – France, Charlemagne/Constantine /Roman influences Italy – A Love Supreme, inherent in Chet Baker.  His sex drive was heightened by his drug use/abuse and this is not avoided but lifted into a higher more closely observed factor in how his relationships developed.  Creating here a love triangle, the drugs as his prop to play, the music itself and the love of his life Jane, factored in here oddly as representing all the women he relied on.  During one scene (making the film)the actress, Jane, wonders why ‘she’ stays and the story of ‘their’ relationship is set p to explain why.  In fact there is another scene near the end when the emphasis shifts back into what drives his relationship and how his playing is his alter of obedience.

In stylish and distinctly well considered homage Ethan Clarke gets the Chet Baker outward look spot on (unlike in my view Don Cheadle’s Miles in Miles Ahead, reviewed previously) and becomes himself a Mister Cool among actors having reached this higher plain.  A stave or octave or two above his previous work.  Plain Chet was awaiting trial for drug-related offences in Italy in 1960, and is approached by a Hollywood director.  It never came to anything.  But here the premise is they are making a film of his life as the pull back after a return to black and white Birdland – named after my favourite jazzman, Joe Zawinul’s composition, hits the blue notes compellingly sharp and deliciously counter melodic.  The backdraft of the times is gloriously felt cinematically and with many so called ‘minor’ parts heightening the impact.  Like the Dizzy Gillespie promoter Danny Friedman, the parole officer and on set musicians.  The fans and atmosphere are beautifully portrayed and there are a lot of Amy Winehouse beehives working the tables or just hanging out. If Ethan is heading for an Oscar so be it but the part just failed me in largesse for it to be an On the Waterfront mind blower, but then it doesn’t need to e these days for an Oscar.  Mark Rylance, in front of blue screen, ought to get it maybe for BFG.


Examines his recovery.

These times are now meant to be the late sixties when he is in semi-recovery for heroin addiction and a period of recuperation which features highly in this film, of repair to his jaw and the instrument employed to play, his mouth which was severely messed up by drug dealers he owed money to.  It had a devastating affect. He takes for parole reasons Methadone.  Ethan Hawke commits his voice to rendering in the drawl which is not an effecting of his voice but a placement of his inner feelings of present vanquished creativity.  His palatte is the trumpet and it is only aided by drugs.  The Capitol recordings are perhaps of limits for this film or too expensive and here the trumpet player – noises off or whatever the equivalent mime trope is – is Kevin Turcotte doing an impressive replacement job. Further on I note a few albums not mentioned in the film, of European flavour for reference and a film with a close beatnik type revolution sans drugs, French style. The Cheaters.  The guy must have loved Paris.  Equally he must have loved the sexually liberated undercurrent of the times and in this film it seems the love interests are channeled into one with alongside the emotionally and drug charged Chet -Ethan Hawke gets his sexual psyche into action – is the other main component of this story, this film, Jane (Carmen Ejogo).


Jane of all parts. The love story shines through.

She is a complete foil as a groupie and lover.  Another review I read introduces brilliantly though not enough play on the word is evoked, —  embouchure – em·bou·chures [ahm-boo-shoo rz, ahm-boo-shoo rz; French ahn-boo-shyr] –  The mouth of a river. The evocative delta of sound eclipsing, evocative of erotic pleasure.  The opening up of a valley into a plain.  The musician adjusting their mouth to the mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece itself. This is the territory of the film where the couple find themselves interlocked and entwined within a harmful, gone wrong narrative which here they are disposed to repeating in a sanitized false version as a biographical film.  This of course is the opposite.  The refrain is the despair which addiction and halted creativity produces in a couple now making adjustments to suit their times.  A comeback is envisaged and the history is vinyl pressings and old feels of film capturing a golden age.  Jane has him living in her VW camper van as they construct a life for themselves.  She as an actress’ and a mean jazz pianist from back in the day when she played musicals and revues, wants acting work badly and faces rejection.  She deals with rejection better than him but perseveres as the relationship bonds them in knowing each other’s faults.  Both sets of parents feature. A seashore encounter with Janes parents sets a marker for love.

A large chunk of the story is given over to the Chet family as he visits his early home in Yale, Oklahoma – Mother Vera and Pa, an ex-musician, whose rendering of the Mel Torme set a path for junior.  Chet recalls it fondly but the early fame and the resulting drugs dependency disclosures hurts his old man Chet Sr.  Jane and Chet make big strides there at the homestead nevertheless and his ‘talent’ makes it into low paying venues where his dues are paid while he knocks on the door, literally of his former chums and believers.  It ends up with good results and drives through the film with lots of tension and energy.  A bit like displaced jazz notes, important to play them out, auto shed or not and settle the meaning and mind on the art performed.  Ethan Hawke is credited with playing the tune Blue Room.  He obviously loves the sounds.  Callus Keith Rennie plays the former producer (into zen, meditation, plants, more than Chet’s comeback initially) Dick Bock.  I heard Chet/Ethan call him Vic, Shady, as memory lost loops once or twice.

Comebacks and catalogue.

He spoke Italian. Fans go to Hotel Universo, Lucca, and ask for Room 15, still today highly requested and it looks onto the piazza of the Teatro del Giglio where Chet held several concerts.
But maybe, for him, the most exciting concert held there was the one organized in his honor on December 15, 1961 by his jazz friends Giovanni Tommaso, Franco Mondini, Antonello Vannucchi and Amedeo Tommasi, on the day he was left the San Giorgio prison in Lucca, following one year of detention.


On the night of July 31, 1960, Chet, who had a history of drug use, collapsed as a consequence of a heroine overdose in a gas station washroom just outside the city. About twenty days later, he was arrested and indicted. He got away with two years instead of the due seven and during those months, Chet who was a composer, would play and fans would gather to listen to the notes of his trumpet coming from within the prison.
‘Everything happens to me’ happens to be his European directed album for Parisienne’s and jazzphiles alike. The listing goes thus. Release Date 1988 Duration 01:10:04 Genre – Jazz – Styles – Cool, West Coast Jazz, Jazz Instrument,Trumpet, Jazz. Recording Date October 24, 1955 – November 28, 1955. Album Moods Intimate, Refined, Reserved,Restrained, Elegant, Sensual, Somber, Stylish, Autumnal, Sophisticated, Album Themes, Introspection, Relaxation, New Love, Romantic, Evening.

Conclusion ####4

There are holes to be picked in this but I feel it is above all a great story somehow relating to reality given the alterations which initially baulked at – re. the Miles Davis rivalry. Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo are a phenomenal pairing and sexually supercharge the roller coaster of a story which blatantly avoids the – ‘if I was you I’d leave him’ trap which his additions no doubt caught up with him in real time.  Some early flashbacks and interior stories weaved into the making of a film which never happen are a jazz acrobatic manouvre Bourdeau is not able to pull of.  It offers though the instant when the relationship in this essentially a troubled love story began.  The influences and music topics are fully thrown out there and the perils of the monster of having talent and using it are brilliantly excecuted.  It is a real scoping story of an artists rose fall and – we don’t get to the rise again but for sheer will power which Ethan Hawke thin as a rake method actor! puts across superbly though the narrowness of gauge – the fact his good times – the vibe he created in Europe is virtually unexplored – means it limits his acting scope and as noted in review he may fail to get the Oscar it probable deserves.  The era at the 60’s this music associates which even enters cinematic culture as I note with the Jean Paul Belmondo Le Tricheurs a forebode to the French cinema attribute at the time of Breathless breaking new ground.  It is actually a light dose of the delights to follow.


John Graham

3 August 2016



On at QFT Belfast from Friday 5 August to the 11 August 2016.

The music which are not the original recordings is superb in the Cinema setting and as the Universal Pictures logo roves up in front of you you realise the higher sound level denotes the primacy of the sounds to follow and it does not let you down.


An album review.

‘Sentimental walk in Paris’ is another journey through his European influences, with a collection of his Vladimir Cosma covers from the ’80s. Although Baker was past his prime and had descended into heavy drugs, he was still an ace trumpeter. His gorgeous sound overcomes the arrangements (which are not bad, but tend to get cheesy at times), and fit perfectly into Cosma’s mood music. In fact, Cosma produced the album and acted as Baker’s handler during the recording sessions. The pairing is an inspired one, although Cosma’s jazz influences have always been apparent. The orchestration that Cosma used for filling out Baker’s sound was wonderfully appropriate, bringing to mind the amazing soundtracks of Henry Mancini or Elmer Bernstein. Fans of either artist should not be disappointed, and even curious listeners looking for a good orchestrated jazz album should give this a listen. Baker may have been at the end of his career, but his unique style was still quite strong.


Cinema and bold expression.

There is a film which you may have heard of or seen.  Listening to that?” said the woman, pointing with a smile to the radiogram. “That”, said Bob, “is my favourite Mulligan. Bernie’s tune. It helps you to concentrate, you know…” Bernie’s Tune – Gerry Mulligan Quartet (with Chet Baker)

“What am i doing with them?  What shall I do now with them all?  In future I shall feel old…… No, it’s far better not to go. It hurts too much to see a pair of lovers, people who love each other or are quite ridiculously happy. Happy, as I perhaps might have been.  Rubbish! You never are. You simply think you are, and that comes to the same thing.”
Françoise D’Eaubonne, The Cheat(er)s, 1961

Les tricheurs aka The Cheaters (1958) Director: Marcel Carné Setting the stage for the new wave cinema – Breathless? 1960.

Stars: Pascale Petit, Andréa Parisy, Jacques Charrier, Jean-Paul Belmondo The Cheaters opens with a shot of two beatniks, cigarettes dangling from mouths, bopping in front of a jukebox. A Parisian college student gets involved with the existentialist beatniks of Saint-Germain-des-Prés who defy the rules of society (like stealing records from a record store!), get involved in blackmail, do some heavy drinking and participate in bizarre love triangles.

Green Room : A Film Review

A Punk Rock thriller. Director, Screenwriter : Jeremy   Saulnier.

Starring:Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Mark Webber, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Kai Lennox. Genre:Drama, Thriller. USA. Cert. 18. Duration. 1hr 35mins.

img_2189Journey into the unknown

Be warned this has extreme levels of Violence.

Not for nervous novice film goers. It’s intro takes us into the gentle, hitherto fairly uncomplicated world of a band trying their best to do something different by doing the same all new bands reluctantly/intensely/purposely – it’s a matter of personal choices – to give it lots. So how does this everyday type occurrence turn out badly for them, because it most certainly does?  They are in a town which has rewarded them poorly for the gigs performed as part of a Club bill normally and are in desperate need of some alternatives.  The intro to the film has them wake up off road and in a field in their Band van or bandwagon come to that.  It’s a decent fit for the five band members and one is a girl bass guitarist.  They reveal their favourite method of continuing on the road by acting illegally to obtain fuel to continue on to their last gig.  Once they arrive in the town they rendezvous with the contact, a Mohican coiffured punk who is both putting them up and who has arranged their gig.  He does this because the band money is split 50/50 and the bands part gets divided by five!   He is straight with them and after the lousy fee he feels obliged to help out more.

Not THE GREYHOUND Croydon mosh pit!

This is really where the story begins.  He sets them up with a gig further North and near Portland.  Now Portland is a fine decent place in my mind,  I even saw the Portland Oregon Free Choir last year here and the multi-racial religious mix and not to mention their singing was blissfully bridge building.  So outside Oregan; the band, especially Alia ask about the redneck rating of the place.  The Mohican gives them a heads up saying it’s OK but keep stum and don’t say your Kewish or whatever.  They go and drive into a Club based in a clearing in a wood with trailers, sheds, a Barnlike Clubroom and are greeted by the Mohicans Uncle/Cousin contact who fills them in on protocol.  It isn’t the warmest of greetings and the deal is quickly agreed to accommodate the Club manager who has a striking resemblance to Chris Moyles (ex/off on R1 DJ) and he is business like and knows what he needs. He even asks -and this is a kind of false sense of security director Jeremy Saulnier places in the script – ‘Are you using the House kit or do you want to use your own?’ – so the band is all the House manager is interested in to feed his customers their music needs, to play for the hoard of young redneck hard hells angel remodels that comprise a hard indie rock following or as the case may be a bunch of malcontent youths willing and able to be led by white supremisists if that would be the order of the locale.  And guess what that basically is the set up.

A mosh but it’s too orderly! How is that?! Only moderate pushing and shoving and no gobbling?!

They perform and then one of them sees something they shouldn’t.  Now this is some  30 – 40 minutes in so maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this.  Actually that is the simple part.  Understanding the set up (it’s not a set up) is instrumental in showing how innocent and unclear they, the youth and the band, are about the undercurrent present in fringes and backwoods of America.  It may or may not ring true but Director Jeremy Saulnier has written this with a clear sense of authoritive ‘I know what I’m talking about, I know what goes on, I want to show you a dark venomous delinquent dangerous, monumentally prejudiced and dangerous side of our sweet old US of A.’  My words not his. It is constructed with a knowing insightful base and in the jugular, head wrecking, off the wall, unconsiable violent, psychotic behavior present and up front. I hate and also despair of violent movies and see no point in them being made.  They pander to a group mentality of debasement as there but for the grace of a God go I mentality. If only that were the half of it.  The baseless of criminality is not entertainment nor is it informative.  It’s just a modern updating of slasher nasty violent thuggery seen in second rate films of any era.  Has it a political point?  Don’t think so.

Ok she’s a lead guitarist!

“We can’t take it so seriously,” says Anton Yelchin, the bands bassist Pat points out. So comedic value? No! It’s as scary as most films go.  He is in the midst of this very bad situation looking for deflection techniques and he and the others come up with some of the bat stupid ideas they quickly discard.  How to deal with the situation is the making of the story.
It’s only pretend but it’s also Shakespeares drama and gore rolled up in a ball of in your face violent action and mayhem. Deliverance has been mentioned, Assualt on Precinct 13 will appear as mentions in many reviews.  The club owner of familiar menace is no other than Mr Star Trek himself, the brilliant actor, Patrick Stewart showing how despite his familiarity to us all shows amazing versatility only top class actors can delivery.  Hubris, depth, along with assured claustrophobic driven direction of sitting on the shoulders of the protagonists gives the heft and heave of chiller thriller of the filmatic tundra the direction brings.

img_2180Superb portrayal of an angsty modern 21st punk.

The programme of QFT said of the violence, ‘ .. technique .. : allowing the horror to manifest itself in the mind of the viewer as much as it plays out on the screen.’   Well if only that were true and we had less visual gore and front on full graphic violence.  The act of showing these acts became gratuitous and despite the refinement of light, claustrophobic rooms, The Green Room of the title in particular complete with the sliding bolts, was gruesome beyond acceptable cinematic value.  It screwed the picture up to make it have appeal to a particular audience who say ‘your never going to believe this, this is awesome in your face violence and seldom do you get an 18 these days so you’ve got to see it – face jaw dropped – exclamation mark.’ That’s as purine a piece of marketing film choices as befits box office before film making. Neither mutually exclusive. Young hopelessly out of their depth the young band are in a dangerous place and their dilemma is brilliantly cast and portrayed with grimacing tight teeth clenching edge of the set reactions from yours truly. I’ve not gone soft and I see the fact of film making enabling the tension it is inconceivable to rationalise, with suspenseful (literally) direction of a strong narrative at pace. Son of Saul recently opened and the writhing in agony of asphyxiation was plain to anyone with imagination. No visual content was expatiated. It did not intimidate you into constructing a fierce distaste and more importantly the means to speak openly and forcefully against all forms of violence.  Its depiction therefore illuminating lay of contrast. Need necessity are as matters of loss  of a single life whaatever the extremes of removal of the liberty of life and have a stark equality.

Conclusion ###3 

Despite the ‘prejudice’ against movies purely out to shock and gain an audience this film is well made and full of suspense. Some Directors like Wes Craven like their screen violence and say it is morally fine as it is …etc.  Cinema and the punters are more discerning. It overdoes it as far as violence is concerned and maybe to make a point about the state the good old US of A has become or may become.  It anesthestises youth and conspirators as being the power cult hero of psychology analysis. It shows a set of young people aspiring for better things caught up in a tundra beyond their school grades. The performances are collectively very convincing with special character playing managed as a singular lone star spirit by Imogen Poots.  At times deranged at others constructive, intelligent and stoic. As for Patrick Stewart, his performance is no more than effective with some accent problems, is it American? is it English? and a physically strong presence, thoroughly believable but somewhat restrained as though depicting his role as a Nazi sympathiser being a considered level headed dude.  Being level headed is his form of survival.  As the events run out of control he has to be the wise guy coming up with alternative solutions which he does, though some are far fetched, such as the final fix. So that’s another imperfect crime scene for CSI to unweaned.

John Graham

19 May 2016


To be screened at QFT Befast from this Friday 20 May through to and including 26 May 2016.

Sound as Music : Health

Sound as Noise
Musician charity Help Musicians headed this discussion forum. Formed a panel for a discussion on the need for Musicians and Audiences to be aware of the potential risks to their hearing if disregarding the levels of sound they expose themselves to.  It was a part of the Outreach programme Output which on Thursday last showcased local musicians as well as introducing audiences and musicians to industry professionals whose experience could bring to bear new ideas and experiences on several levels.

The title of the event was long-winded so I prefer to use the core strategy of HelpMusicians which is the leading charity in the field headed by the panel chair and representing his charity, Richard Robinson, next is Shauna Tohill of the band Ruse. Then Will Fenton a sound engineer and lecturer based in Surrey. Then last but not least a Record Produce and Band Manager Declan Legge from the provinces Big Studios. Some further contact details follow at the completion of this post.  
Day’s Events’

For the most part it involved a day for several venues to set up a platform, stage for the 4 acts they were to host in the ‘what the musicians called’ the fun part.  Each of 4 would do a stint giving it there best shot.

At Altier & Echo it was to include Ruse who also recorded a live track in the afternoon for Radio Ulsters Arts Show.           Also in the duos busy day was a member, Shauna  Tohill participating in the panel on Hearing loss at the afternoon session in the Oh Yeah Centre in Gordon Street.
Damage across the board 

The panel comprised the aforementioned with a review of where the music industry is with protection from damaging sound levels experienced across many platforms.  From in ear buds with which a later chooses to play at very high decibels into their own ear canals music which if sustained for even short periods of twenty or thirty minutes will cause irreprible damage. A survey of musicians carried out in a widespread comprehensive GB study found that 78% of Musicians had found themselves suffering hearing loss and damage.

First of was a description of the levels, the decibel range at which sound becomes audible and how it is delivered. At normal conversation levels we are at around forty to fifty decibels and in a microphone speech is delivered around seventy decibels and eighty is around city traffic levels. At concerts sound is delivered at around 120 decibels where the damaging levels kick in big time.  The Health and Safety laws are very obtuse and for industrial purposes mostly.  They range from noise in Children’s Nursery’s to Nuclear Fusion Plants.

Occurrences – The enjoyment of music comes not without its hazards and everyone must be made aware of them.

Latency is a word used in the context of hearing loss which I take to mean the accumulative effects lasting after the event and is in physiological terms in my mind the interval between stimulus and reaction.  The enjoyment of music comes not without its hazards and everyone must be made aware of them. There’s probably not an older musician around who will not confess to some hearing damage. It is not an occupational hazard but a preventable manageable entity as the discussion was to find out.

Panel Experiences and heads up 
Richard Robinson of Help Musicians has been profoundly deaf, with no hearing since birth.  Nevertheless it has not stopped him from being an active band member with the aid of technology.  His history will unfold on the charities website no doubt.  He could notice other band members experiences and the loss of hearing he reckoned came at around 6 hertz frequencies upwards. He was able to advise that the conventional orange builders earplugs are non discriminatory as they allow frequencies through and dampen others meaning some damaging ones certainly will get through.  
Will Fenton
Our hearing, it was pointed out by Will Fenton is not wholly dealt with by our ear functions but he noted if you excuse the pun (there might inadvertently be several – astonishingly we caught Declan Legge use the oft used phrase ‘some band members and sound engineers just like to whack it up to Eleven! It illustrated his stronger very valid point of which will follow) the bass notes come in through our bones chiefly through our flesh and muscle structures.  I found that astonishing.  It also explained why you feel the sound vibrating in you in some small room or large room resonating venues specially when blue or jazz modular ions literally flex their muscles.  

This is the bodily immersive state perhaps the sub-conscious seeks and is an auditory delight and immersive experience.  It is similar in a sense, those puns again, to the dance room venues where the whole body vibrates and endorphin rush, (not a pun – as a band they were rubbish to me) penetrated and bass creates a mind body electric experience.  The brain sending the electric stimuli to the brain at the root of consciousness in waves of directions pulsating memory responses back not everyone’s system in a cyclical trancelike deliverance. Euphoria is the word we all know and are blessed with at times. To be in the centre of a crowd away from the known expected forms of sound delivery are found resonances, puns again.  

Take for instance the type of song and singing at the Millenium Stadium on a Rugby match day and to be in the middle of the Welsh crowd surrounded by thousands of magical Welsh singing voices is a enthralling experience from top to toe.  There is nothing so instructive about sound delivery as it also fills the body in a 360 degree circle.  Or also the experience of being in a very accomplished choir whose sound is interspersed in ranges which are chiefly all of human origin.


Ear protection is being advanced for all noose environments and huge advances are seen with ear moulded hearing protection devices and utilized by top musicians.

There needs to be venue participation.  Open or closed performance has on occasion information such as decibel levels.  These are some times prominent and other times absent. The requirement to have levels displayed at high level even on the monitors the,selves seems a good way forward.  On the source in other words and the overall combined level not just the output from one set of monitors. 

The music sites need in my view an overall music level overseer. To each venue a Sound Marshall should be appointed with complete authority and responsibility for advising and ensuring the gig or event has fully identified its levels and capabilities in their (confined) space with them then adhering to the protocols. Warnings should be issued to audiences to be aware of their exposure times to sound as being their own responsibility and ‘this event will have a maximum level of #### over the duration of the concert #### hours. Please ensure rest times of around #### and #### between events.

Sound protectors.
Here are some random products not endorsed by this website but showing just part of the various options.


Check with suppliers what degree ear mould or headphone protection brings. Some in ear monitors may not be designed to remove all or most of external sound and delivery the bands/performers sound only. So,e may want some external sound as part of the audience reaction and the engineer is best placed to advise how this is achieved. It is not best achieved by having one ear on and one ear off!!!



John Graham

22 September 2016